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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Jan. 27, 2006

Building the FY07 budget

Consumption, prices lead to utilities shortfall this year

by Anne Krapfl

We lowered thermostats in the winter. We consolidated office refrigerators. We turned off printers and lab fume hoods at the end of the day. We made the best of muggy offices in the summer. The exemplary energy cost savings Iowa State employees helped achieve for nearly four years . . . has vanished. In fact, energy costs are headed in the other direction for the current fiscal year. A utilities budget shortfall is certain; whether it's $1 million or $1.5 million remains to be seen.

Director of facilities operations Dave Miller attributes most of the shortfall to two factors, in roughly equal proportions:

  • Increased energy consumption during the last 12 months due to hundreds of exemptions granted to building energy-savings plans started in 2002 (and run successfully for more than three years).
  • Cost increases in what Iowa State pays for fuels and purchased service, including a 20 percent increase in coal, 30 percent increase in natural gas and 25 percent increase in electricity.

In light of the success of the energy-savings plan in the past and the mild winter central Iowa has enjoyed since mid-December, Miller said most people on campus probably don't think energy consumption and costs are a problem right now.

But with a campus as large as Iowa State's serving a vast array of functions, "it's a whole bunch of small actions that make the difference," Miller said, urging employees to pay closer attention again to energy consumption.

Energy-savings plan II

Miller said his staff is starting over with a second energy-savings plan. He said building-specific plans in this one will be developed in consultation with the college or administrative unit that occupies the space. But he also said that once a building energy plan is decided upon, exemptions will be hard to come by.

Existing exemptions will be "sunsetted" as part of the plan. Each college or unit has been asked to designate an energy representative who will attend energy-savings planning meetings for all buildings his or her unit occupies. The goal, Miller said, is consistency across the college or administrative unit.

"We have developed some environmental standards we're hoping everyone finds acceptable," he said.

Work on the new energy-savings plan has begun, Miller said, with early results anticipated within two months. In six months, he said he's hopeful the plan will be "fully engaged."

In the meantime, in addition to covering this year's utilities shortfall, Geoffroy said the university will have to contend with about $1.9 million in utility cost increases as it constructs next year's budget. This could reduce funds available for other university priorities, he noted.


A utilities budget shortfall expected to exceed $1 million this year is due primarily to two factors: increased consumption in the last 12 months and cost increases in what Iowa State pays for fuels and purchased utility service.